01/05/11 — Mount Olive will pay sewer plant bill

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Mount Olive will pay sewer plant bill

By Catharin Shepard
Published in News on January 5, 2011 1:46 PM

MOUNT OLIVE -- The Mount Olive wastewater treatment plant is still not performing to contract specifications, but the town Board of Commissioners voted Tuesday to pay a bill for its construction.

The board voted 5-1 in favor of authorizing the funding agency to pay the remaining amount, about $240,000, owed to Seaside Construction of South Carolina.

Seaside Construction built the wastewater treatment plant based on plans designed by the engineering firm Hobbs, Upchurch & Associates.

Commissioners conducted a half-hour closed session meeting reviewing legal matters related to the wastewater treatment plant before calling the vote. Commissioner George Fulghum dissented and voted against the motion.

The town previously held out on authorizing the payment due to the uncertainty regarding the plant's drip system status.

"We want to be sure the taxpayers have got the full benefit of the dollars they spent before we walk away from the table," Town Manager Brown said last month about the matter.

The treatment plant's drip system, designed to carry reclaimed wastewater to fields planted with tree saplings, should provide the town an additional million gallon capacity. However, the system filters clog up faster than they should, officials said.

Town Manager Charles Brown met with legal and engineering advisors last month to discuss the issue. The town asked Hobbs, Upchurch & Associates to fix the problem by essentially converting the drip system to a spray system - at the engineering firm's cost - but has not yet received a response.

The town could sue the company for not fulfilling contractual obligation to provide the extra million gallon treatment capacity outlined in the original contract more than five years ago. However, the town hopes to settle the matter out of court, Brown said.

The town has not entered into any contracts or pursued legal action beyond requesting the engineering fix, but would seek to recoup any legal costs from Hobbs, Upchurch & Associates if action becomes necessary, the town manager said.

In other business, the town board authorized Special Projects Director Maylon Weeks and his office to decide which streets to repair using this year's Powell Aid funding.

Fixing all of the town streets in need of repair would cost about five times the amount of funding provided this year, Brown said.

Weeks may or may not need to bring the matter before the board again in upcoming months, now that he has authorization to complete the project. His department will determine the best use of the funding, commissioners decided.

"They know more about how the streets are listed," McDonald said.

The department will bid out the project and hopes to see new asphalt laid down on affected streets sometime in March.

The town board also authorized appointing a search committee to find a new police chief. Mount Olive Police Chief Ralph Schroeder announced last month his plans to retire in March. The search committee, including the mayor, town manager, two police commissioners and Schroeder himself, will perform a search to select the next chief.